In the answer that I wrote to What happens if a student fails an O.W.L.?, I said that Crabbe and Goyle had to retake their DADA OWLs, based on a quote from The Half-Blood Prince. A different answer, by @Au101, proved me wrong,and showed that they don't have to, but that there's the option to.

We see that Crabbe and Goyle retake their DADA OWLs:

"Keep your voice down!" spat Snape, for Malfoy's voice had risen excitedly. "If your friends Crabbe and Goyle intend to pass their Defense Against the Dark Arts OWL this time around, they will need to work a little harder than they are doing at pres-"
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, chapter 15

They don't exactly seem the type of person who'd willingly take on some extra learning work, though.

Why did Crabbe and Goyle decide to retake their OWLs?

  • 6
    Forced maybe? DADA's much more important than Divination or History of Magic.
    – Voronwé
    Aug 23 '17 at 13:57
  • 2
    Forced by their parents, I expect.
    – Valorum
    Aug 23 '17 at 14:04
  • 3
    You can't leave Hogwarts till you've finished 6th year, and presumably you have to take a minimum number of classes - DADA allows them to practice combat/dark curses on school time. Why wouldn't they resit it if they failed the first time? (that's a genuine question - I'm not sure why you're listing it as "extra learning work". "Extra" in contrast to what?)
    – DavidS
    Aug 23 '17 at 14:21
  • @DavidS That's what I was thinking about. There is no reason mentioned for them to pass that OWL, and they have already joined the dark side themselves or are going to anyway, so there is even less insentive than before for them to pass it.
    – ksjohn
    Aug 23 '17 at 14:32
  • I think you're overlooking the fact that the rules may be different for different subjects as well as depending on what year you are in. Nor is there really any evidence that I can see as to how many subjects Fred or George repeated. Aug 24 '17 at 1:35

The simplest explanation is that they simply wanted to take DADA at the NEWT level and did not get the minimum scores to do so. Why they want to is pure speculation. Two possibilities come to mind, and either or both could apply:

1) Parental pressure. The parentals could be VERY unhappy with their performance, and forcing them to retake one or more subjects.

2) Even a group like the Death Eaters has standards. DADA seems to cover subjects and spells, both defensive and offensive, that would be useful in a fight. Even if Voldemort takes them on as dumb muscle, they're of little use if they can't even handle the watered down school version of the topic. Hard to impress the Dark Lord with crappy test scores.


Probably to maintain the illusion that they were anti-Voldemort.

Remember that Harry told Cornelius Fudge that Crabbe and Goyle's fathers were Death Eaters.

"Look, I saw Voldemort come back!" Harry shouted. He tried to get out of bed again, but Mrs Weasley forced him back. "I saw the Death Eaters! I can give you their names! Lucius Malfoy -"
Snape made a sudden movement, but as Harry looked at him, Snape's eyes flew back to Fudge.
"Malfoy was cleared!" said Fudge, visibly affronted. "A very old family - donations to excellent causes-"
"Macnair!" Harry continued.
"Also cleared! Now working for the Ministry!"
"Avery - Nott - Crabbe - Goyle -"
(Goblet of Fire, Chapter 36, The Parting of the Ways).

When the Ministry finally accepted that Voldemort had returned they would probably have tried to gather as much information about potential Death Eaters as possible. Through speaking to Fudge or through reading Harry's Rita Skeeter article they would have gathered that Crabbe Senior and Goyle Senior were Death Eaters.

If these families are being watched by the Ministry, what kind of signal does it send out if the kids fail Defence Against the Dark Arts? Death Eaters like Lucius Malfoy were well aware of the need to keep up appearances. He made sure Draco knew that it didn't look good to sound overly unenthusiastic about Harry Potter in public.

"Harry Potter got a Nimbus Two Thousand last year. Special permission from Dumbledore so he could play for Gryffindor. He's not even that good, it's just because he's famous...famous for having a stupid scar on his forehead..."
Malfoy bent down to examine a shelf full of skulls.
"...everyone thinks he's so smart, wonderful Potter with his scar and broomstick-"
"You have told me this at least a dozen times already," said Mr Malfoy, with a quelling look at his son, "and I would remind you that it is not - prudent - to appear less than fond of Harry Potter, not when most of our kind regard him as the hero who made the Dark Lord disappear..."
(Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 4, At Flourish and Blotts).

The Death Eaters may be more powerful at this stage than they once were but they are still an underground movement whose members are vulnerable to arrest. Any suggestion that Crabbe and Goyle are into the Dark Arts or are disinterested in fighting them may put their families in danger. Hence they retook the year to burnish their anti-Voldemort credentials.

This essentially boils down to 'parental pressure'. I doubt that Crabbe and Goyle themselves had much appetite for further learning.

Of course, the real reason why Crabbe and Goyle failed Defence Against the Dark Arts was because of stupidity, not any great ideological crusade. They probably didn't get many O.W.L.s at all in other subjects, either. But those failing those other subjects wouldn't arouse suspicion, which is why Defence Against the Dark Arts was the only subject which we know they retook.


"If your friends Crabbe and Goyle intend to pass their Defense Against the Dark Arts OWL this time around[...]"

Emphasis mine.

Maybe they don't. That sentence is conditional and deals with intent, not facts.

From what I read, he is just speculating on their intention to pass their OWL, nothing more.

Maybe the author uses that sentence as a subtle way to introduce the fact that they failed their exam to the reader.

EDIT : I'm not contesting the fact that they took the class, something Snape would know either way. I'm contesting the fact that they took it to actually pass, or that this information can be known from the book. I understood that it wasn't clear in my answer.

  • 3
    Um, no. If you look at the rest of the sentence - this time around, they will need to work a little harder than they are doing at pres- it's quite obvious that they're trying to work on it and not doing well.
    – Mithical
    Aug 23 '17 at 14:06
  • 2
    Snape is saying if they intend to pass, not if they intend to take it--he knows already that they do intend to take it. The question is why, not if.
    – CHEESE
    Aug 23 '17 at 14:21

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